philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Giving algorithms a sense of uncertainty could make them more ethical

The first technique, known as partial ordering, begins to introduce just the slightest bit of uncertainty. You could program the algorithm to prefer friendly soldiers over enemy soldiers and friendly civilians over enemy soldiers, but you wouldn’t specify a preference between friendly soldiers and friendly civilians.

In the second technique, known as uncertain ordering, you have several lists of absolute preferences, but each one has a probability attached to it. Three-quarters of the time you might prefer friendly soldiers over friendly civilians over enemy soldiers. A quarter of the time you might prefer friendly civilians over friendly soldiers over enemy soldiers.

The algorithm could handle this uncertainty by computing multiple solutions and then giving humans a menu of options with their associated trade-offs, Eckersley says. Say the AI system was meant to help make medical decisions. Instead of recommending one treatment over another, it could present three possible options: one for maximizing patient life span, another for minimizing patient suffering, and a third for minimizing cost. “Have the system be explicitly unsure,” he says, “and hand the dilemma back to the humans.”

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My Bloody Valentine: A Las Vegas Virtual Reality Experience Of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in partnership with the Chicago History Museum, the VR experience transports you to the exact spots where the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre unfolded, by superimposing images from then and now in virtual reality. Audiences can use their smartphones and Google Cardboard VR Goggles or use Oculus Go on YouTube’s 360 channel to be immersed in the Roaring ’20s.

A narrator tells the tale of the massacre while giving a virtual tour of the sites and historical photos. It gives eye-opening insights into the infamous shooting, when Chicago police found the bodies of seven men, shot in the back and riddled with bullets in a Northside garage. All the participants were associated with Prohibition-era bootlegging gangs led by Al Capone and Bugs Moran.

If you’d like a selfie, the Mob Museum even owns the re-assembled wall where the Massacre occurred, including bullet holes.

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Mixed Realities, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality in Scholarly Publishing: An Interview with Markus Kaindl and Martijn Roelandse

Are there particular disciplines or fields that are more likely than others to adopt and benefit from this technology? Why (or why not)?

MK: In the lab or a clinical trial scenario, where researchers need both their hands free but still rely on relevant information being displayed, this technology is going to be crucial. Practicing doctors might be another target group that could hugely benefit from this. The technology will most likely be more used in the STM disciplines, which are heavily dependent on the visualization of data, and less so in some humanities disciplines such as history and philosophy. However, we’ve seen some fantastic results in education, such as “Mathland: Play with Math in Mixed Reality” from the MIT Media Lab, and this very simple demo of how atoms unite to compounds, which could help pupils to learn chemistry in an intriguing way. Psychology is an important area of focus as well, e.g., trying to understand how our memory works with the aforementioned “neuroBook” or the MIT Media Lab using AR for memorization.

MR: Indeed “the lab” is the most likely place for adaptation of this technology. Also the ‘hacks’ that were created during our Hackathon ranged from a real-time augmented reality overlay that aids in the discovery of scientific papers related to objects in the world around us, to VR visualization of and interaction with protein structures, to a mixed reality globe that highlights data about the world’s coral reefs, and more. However I would think that applications within the psychology and behavior space would also work well, as to me a VR training like the one described in the previous question, are way more “in your face” as e-learning on a screen.

Can you share some examples of how this technology is already being used — at Springer Nature and beyond?

MK: At Springer Nature we have implemented a first prototype of spatial reading, allowing users to browse and read a book in virtual reality, as demonstrated at this year’s FBF. While visualization of proteins, targets, and hormones in lab environments is starting to get established, we also see other disciplines like geology and earth sciences building applications to explore soil layers in virtual cave setups, for example.

Realistically, how well established do you think this technology will be in scholarly publishing within, say, five years time?

MK: I believe in five years time it will become increasingly common to read a paper while additional information is being displayed as part of a mixed reality experience, just because the technology will be cheaper and simpler to use. Furthermore, in the area of teaching and learning, the effects of virtual and augmented reality will be widespread and well established. In scholarly publishing overall, I don’t think traditional ways of writing and consuming will be substantially challenged, but the experiences around it will be made a lot more delightful and immersive.

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Top toy trends for 2019: YouTube, augmented reality, more

image-2“Whether kids are using augmented reality to find their favorite collectible Shopkins characters, building wall walking robots, going back to some basic craft play with new twists or customizing their own fashion dolls to be the next social media star, 2019 will be an awesome year for those who are young at heart."

“Kids love watching kids just like them on their favorite shows, and that’s why some of the most famous kids these days are YouTube stars," Schacht says. Ryan's Mystery Egg from Bonkers Toys, a toyline based on Ryan ToysReview YouTube show, which has more than 17.8 million subscribers, was one of the hottest toys in 2018.

Kid-friendly AR

"The toys can stand on their own or be enhanced by the technology, making them even more exciting to kids."

Mysterious surprises

Toys offering some kind of surprise factor have been on trend for the past two years, whether it's unboxing to find mystery accessories and blind bag components, or additional features like a burst of confetti as kids open the package, says Schacht.

Custom creativity

In 2019, kids will love anything personalized that allows them to make something their own, inject their own style or play with something in different ways.

Nurturing animals

According to Schacht, toy manufacturers are keeping up with the animal care trend, with plush toys that kids can take care of, interactive pets and kits that incorporate veterinary science.

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Former Google Augmented Reality Engineering Lead Takes Over Facebook’s Portal Hardware Team

giphy-15On Wednesday, Facebook's Rafa Carmargo (also a former Google product engineering leader) announced on Twitter that he will take over Facebook's AR and VR hardware team, with Ryan Cairns, formerly the senior director of engineering for AR and VR at Google, assuming leadership of the team working on the Portal video calling product line.

According to TechCrunch, Carmargo took over the Portal team last month as part of a reorganization of Facebook's Building 8 advanced technology research team. Meanwhile, NR30 member Michael Abrash continues to oversee the Facebook Reality Labs research team.

"We're also incorporating augmented reality (AR) effects — powered by our Spark AR platform — to make calls even more fun and interactive," the company's website announced during Portal's launch. "Story Time brings stories to life with custom sound effects and visuals. Smart Camera helps you read a fun story via a simple teleprompter, perfectly framed, while your loved ones on the other side watch as your face and voice transform into the story's characters."

In recent times, Cairn has demonstrated that he can deliver AR products for public release and iterate quickly, as evidenced by multiple ARCore releases throughout 2018, so it's likely Portal will quickly gain new AR features. Moreover, Portal serves as a trojan horse for introducing mainstream consumers to its overall AR platform in the coming months.

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Lyft wants to use augmented reality to make it easier to meet your driver

  • 5c409e8155ab0b384f2f6f8b-750-375Lyft has filed a patent for augmented-reality tools that could make connecting riders and drivers easier.
  • The system would use historical pick-up and drop-off data to determine the optimal location for drivers to meet riders.
  • The patent also proposes the use of AR glasses like Magic Leap to project futuristic labels onto the drivers' vision.

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“For instance, the virtual reality transportation system accesses the historical information for each maneuver along the route and identifies previous inertial forces that transportation vehicles have experienced in the past for the same turns, merges, stops, etc,” the application states. “In some cases, the virtual reality transportation system determines (e.g., calculates) an average of each of the previous inertial forces for the maneuvers along the travel route to predict the inertial forces that the passenger will experience.”

From there, the VR system would generate a virtual experience with virtual interactions based on the real-world environment. Specifically, the VR system may include, “but are not necessarily limited to, virtual collisions with objects, virtual turns, virtual drops, etc.”  That sounds mildly horrifying, but it would definitely make for an unforgettable ride. Other ideas of virtual experiences feature a game with lasers and flying saucers.

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A country’s ambitious plan to teach anyone the basics of AI

finlandAt the heart of the economic push to up-skill Finnish workers is another push to create a more informed democracy. That was what prompted Teemu Roos, the mastermind behind the course and an associate professor of computer science at the University of Helsinki, to begin the project in the first place. He wanted to equip voters with the necessary information to weigh in on how the country should invest in and regulate AI.

In the US in particular, a study published last week by the Center for the Governance of AI at Oxford University found that many Americans don’t realize the nature or prevalence of AI—that it’s behind Facebook’s photo-tagging capabilities and Netflix’s recommendation engine. Policymakers are equally confused about the technology’s scope and capabilities, as they demonstrated when Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress in April of last year. Without a grounded understanding, the US risks regulating AI too obtusely—either unintentionally curbing innovation or failing to mitigate consequences.

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Boston Cyberarts Gallery exhibit

4. Hollow Point 101 300aLos Angeles artist Nancy Baker Cahill, who grew up in Boston, invites viewers to step inside her works using virtual reality, and take them out in the world using augmented reality.

Her lively, sometimes menacing handmade abstract drawings (and two paintings in tropical reds and oranges) hang on the wall in an exhibition at Boston Cyberarts Gallery, full of swift, smudgy motion. In some, collaged slivers topping the smoky graphite suggest shrapnel: In “Hollow Point 11” marks and shards make a violent nimbus around an empty space.

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Artist takes people to the edge in Headlands augmented reality installation

Courtesy of Vishal K. Dar "These batteries and bunkers were fascinating to me because they didn't have a narrative I could include myself, just these leftover, out-of-function sites which almost beckoned that they could be engaged with on a level where it might be interesting to build new narratives into them," says Vishal K. Dar of his exhibit at the Headlands Center for the Arts through March 3

Courtesy of Vishal K. Dar
"These batteries and bunkers were fascinating to me because they didn't have a narrative I could include myself, just these leftover, out-of-function sites which almost beckoned that they could be engaged with on a level where it might be interesting to build new narratives into them," says Vishal K. Dar of his exhibit at the Headlands Center for the Arts through March 3

“Edge of See: Twilight Engines,” which uses an augmented reality app to create abstract light sculptural overlays, or “engines,” that will spin, turn and tumble over three former military batteries — Mendell, Wallace and Smith-Guthrie — in the Headlands, a project he developed while he was an artist in residence at Headlands Center for the Arts in 2017. It opens Sunday and runs through March 3.

It’s the first time he’s used augmented reality in his work, a necessity this time, he says, to avoid getting tangled in the bureaucratic shenanigans often involved when dealing with historic structures on federal land. But, just as attractive, he says, is using apps to show how ubiquitous and essential they have become, and how they connect us to our world.

“Human history is bogged down by a certain idea of perspective and a notion of a narrative. The urge is to roam. It’s only been 150, 200 years that we’ve made nations, states and borders, and national boundaries. Before that, the way we populated the earth and the way everything developed is because we moved around. It isn’t because we stayed in one place and created a fence around ourselves and said, ‘this is what we’re going to be, this is what our history is going to be,'” he says. “History, narrative are mobile and organic. If I’m interested in landscape, I can’t be interested in the pettiness of human history.”

What: “Edge of See: Twilight Engines”

When: Jan. 20 to March 3, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays

Where: Headlands Center for the Arts, 944 Fort Barry, Sausalito

Admission: Free


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Spatial – The Augmented Reality Office of the Future May Be Complete Illusion

New York startup Spatial recently released a prototype of a new form of office communication it calls a collective computing environment. It’s a hybrid of augmented reality and video conferencing that lets you become a 3D character capable of interacting with workplace documents, software, and, of course, other video callers. I use the term “character” as the system doesn’t render your actual human body, rather it creates a cartoonish avatar out of a still photograph.

VC Daily recently reported on aholographic telemedicine demonstration that used curved, bubble-like displays in which 3D images were projected. Perhaps Spatial could draw on this technology, at the very least as a simple way to allow workers to interact with holographic files, documents, and graphics.

Until that occurs, however, we are left to ponder that supersensory augmented reality office of the future.

It’s clear from devices such as Spatial’s prototype that we’re not far away from inhabiting workspaces that are essentially a blank slate for an entirely digital experience. The only hardware you currently need to live in Spatial’s world, after all, is a desktop or phone and a pair of goggles. Your surroundings, in fact, should probably be left blank so you can maximize the visual impact.

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